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Subject: Vodka and Steel or a micro-review of Russian Railroads rss

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Lorenzo Pacq
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Back to testing the Essen new games during our weekly evening in Ludoteca Galliatese we decided to play Russian Railroads, a title which had a lower buzz before the exhibition but was able to grow during the Spiel 2013 days, finishing as number 1 spot on the yearly Fairplay list.



Cossackmeeples ready to start the game

RR is absolutely a gamer’s game, a medium-heavy worker placement; the railroads theme it is quite present and well adapted, thanks to the railways game background of the two designers (Ohley&Orgler), who have in their career several designs of the 18xx series.

A positive note is coming from the handbook, it is one of the best manual I’ve ever read and after a careful (and pleasant) first read leaves few doubts, even if the game itself presents a quite big number of actions, bonus and choices for the players.

Very briefly overview:
The players use their workers on the central board in the same way as other WP games (as in example Agricola or Caylus) to occupy and activate immediately the spot (also blocking the use for other players).

These actions allows the players to extend one of the three railways or the industrialization track, taking extra-workers, collecting roubles, buying locomotive to reach the tracks laid down or buying factories which grant additional bonus once reached by their industrial level , hiring engineers which add another action spot only available to the player who take them as well as granting extra bonuses in the final round Victory Points calculation.
Quite a lot of choices but very well highlighted on the central boards and after a couple of rounds it becomes all clearer.



Mid-game, struggling over the track's advancement

The interaction is thus limited “only” to the blocking spots and availability for the other players, at first sight it could seems not so much but with more experience it is a great challenge and grant some cut-throat plays, taking note that it’s not possible to follow and finish all routes.

Anyway, the game is giving enough possibilities to occupy other spots, which grant the development of a personal strategy, also considering that almost every action is resulting in point’s collection at the end of the round and allowing fighting till the end for the final victory.

Probably some of the end bonus seems too powerful (most engineers worth 40 points!) but I want to have more plays to see if there is really a predominant strategy or, as it seems, the play testing has been done so deeply that the game is well balanced.

At the end of the turn once all players pass (remember to score points also for the turn order position) the points must be calculated, till the end of 7th round when it is also added the bonus end cards and final results let us know who is the best stakhanovite of the bunch.

It is indeed a great title, probably it is not introducing any new astounding mechanic but the challenge and satisfaction which the game gives as well as a really well done, smooth and “easy to grasp-difficult to master” experience plus the really well adapted railways theme is letting me say that it’s one of the best “new” game in my collection and I can see it played more and more in future.



Kremlin archive: Russian Railroads has been played by LG Anarchist Collective since 1905

Personal vote: 8+, I’m waiting to have more plays to raise it more once I’m 100% sure that there is not a better strategy

PRO: classic but not banal worker placement, lots of possibilities and well-done overall presentation.
Great material and components, from the thick card engineers, locomotive / factories design to the lovely cossackmeeples!
Best manual ever

CON: initial feeling that some strategies are working better and are a must to follow, to be checked the replayability considering that is “limited” to the initial draft of the engineers.
Low interaction compared to other worker placement (but this can also be a pro depending on the kind of players sitting at the table)

Once again, thanks to the LG (Ludoteca Galliatese) team
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Bruno Valerio
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Re: Vodka and Steel or a mirco-review of Russian Railroadds
Great overview!

In my experience with the game there are several winning strategies.

I've won with a Kiev - St Petersbourg strategie, i know that in some other games players who followed a industry strategie or a Trans-Siberian strategie also won.

So i think it is very well balanced... but i also want to get more plays... so far it isn't a problem for me.
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Lorenzo Pacq
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Re: Vodka and Steel or a mirco-review of Russian Railroadds
Thanks Bruno, I really was excited about RR since the manual has been released.
It was my first purchase of this Essen fair.
The micro-reviews are just a way to give a feeling of the game not going too much in details, I'm open to improve it depending on the feedbacks received.
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Klaus Knechtskern
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Re: Vodka and Steel or a mirco-review of Russian Railroadds
Lollosven wrote:

CON: initial feeling that some strategies are working better and are a must to follow, to be checked the replayability considering that is “limited” to the initial draft of the engineers.
Low interaction compared to other worker placement (but this can also be a pro depending on the kind of players sitting at the table)

Once again, thanks to the LG (Ludoteca Galliatese) team


Thanks for the review! I have played the game quite alot of times during the development phase and can assure you that there are plenty of strategies which can work. Of course you always have to have a look on the engineers and should at leat acquire one of them who fits into your overall plan
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Lorenzo Pacq
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Thanks Klaus, no doubt about the different strategies to use for victory.
Also I'm quite sure that with more experience we will be more careful on which engineer to take able to help our strategy.
Also I'm wondering if out of the 7 tokens with ? the one that gave one face up bonus card + end bonus card it's always a must and probably the first to take, it seems really too strong than the rest.
Thinking about it's not really a big problem taking in mind that everyone has the same possibility to get it.
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Klaus Knechtskern
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Lollosven wrote:
Thanks Klaus, no doubt about the different strategies to use for victory.
Also I'm quite sure that with more experience we will be more careful on which engineer to take able to help our strategy.
Also I'm wondering if out of the 7 tokens with ? the one that gave one face up bonus card + end bonus card it's always a must and probably the first to take, it seems really too strong than the rest.
Thinking about it's not really a big problem taking in mind that everyone has the same possibility to get it.


That is quite the dilemma as the other options give a more instant effect whereas the end bonus helps you at the end. You have to choose wisely
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Mario Nuñez Jimenez
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Replayability may be an issue after several plays?
 
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Lorenzo Pacq
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Not sure in the long term, truly speaking the engineer you draw at the beginning of each game are just 7 out of possible 15 and the strategy will change quite a bit according to the same.

Also it seems to me a game where it is really important to look upon the other players strategy, in example if everyone is pushing on industry than it's more efficient to look on other way, usually getting better benefits than struggling for an advancement over industry track.

Every game will be quite different, than as all game it will depend how often you'll bring to the table...
 
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Philip Thomas
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7 out of 14 actually (Engineer 1 is always in play).

Actually the number of combinations is less than that since you must have 3 As and 4 Bs. But it is still a lot of combinations. Turn order for first turn also matters- which bonus you pick is an interesting choice.

40 points for most Engineers seems a lot but given a winning score is 400+ (with experienced players) it is only 10% of said winning score.

Some bonus tiles definitely seem stronger than others. I've yet to see the second Industry marker taken, for example- or the 3 doublers. And there's value in being first to look at the optional cards....and if you want to use the bonus worker or the bonus engineer I guess you should pick him as your first bonus because that gets maximum use (the 9 Locomotive is a similar thing). On the other hand I've seen the +2 industry and a factory card used to good effect on the final turn. The Kiev Medal Bonus is a competitor here- I saw a guy get it up and scoring by turn 3- he won that game. So- a variety of strategies are possible and you'll want to watch your opponents to see what they are doing as well as following your own path.

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Lorenzo Pacq
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Philip thanks for your clarification, I was not thinking about the 1 engineer who's always in play on the bonus card, as well as the splitting of A and B group, you're right and it's reducing the statistic number of possible initial setup.

Actually the 7 bonus tiles are what I'm wondering more, as you say some of these are a sure pickup in almost every game; the bonus ? plus end bonus card it's too strong to not pick in every game, maybe not as first but sure you must have one end bonus card at the end of the game if you want to have some chance of winning and the bonus face up ? card is always granting some good boost.

Kiev medal and revaluation have been also used quite effectively in our games and can be a second good choice but the second industry marker... no idea if there's a strategy which can be useful for this bonus.
I think my next game I'll try, we'll see.

Wonderful game by the way
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Klaus Knechtskern
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Lollosven wrote:

... but the second industry marker... no idea if there's a strategy which can be useful for this bonus.
I think my next game I'll try, we'll see.

Wonderful game by the way


You might be surprised how useful that double industry marker can be. If you max. out the industry till the end of the game you use the effects of 10 (!) factories. Probably you have 2 factories No. 1 and a bunch of engineers. That can be many points....
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Mathue Faulkner
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KlausKnechtskern wrote:
Lollosven wrote:

... but the second industry marker... no idea if there's a strategy which can be useful for this bonus.
I think my next game I'll try, we'll see.

Wonderful game by the way


You might be surprised how useful that double industry marker can be. If you max. out the industry till the end of the game you use the effects of 10 (!) factories. Probably you have 2 factories No. 1 and a bunch of engineers. That can be many points....

Our Double Maxed Industry player did quite well in our only play. He easily beat the Kiev Medal player, but couldn't keep up the Revaluation player...
 
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Jorge
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Philip Thomas wrote:
7 out of 14 actually (Engineer 1 is always in play).

It's not even that. Technically, 7 out of 14 gives you 3432 different combinations. Since you have two different groups, A and B, you'd have:

(3 out of 6) times (4 out of 8) = C(6,3) x C(8,4) = 1400 combinations

If you take into account the order as well, i.e., permutations, you've got 201,600 permutations in total!
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